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Latest ‘Sherlock’ at Park Square is more farce than mystery

In “Sherlock Holmes of the Case of the Jersey Lily,” playwright Katie Forgette has taken elements from a number of different Holmes stories, mixed them up and added a couple of historical figures for seasoning.

In “Sherlock Holmes of the Case of the Jersey Lily,” playwright Katie Forgette has taken elements from a number of different Holmes stories, mixed them up and added a couple of historical figures for seasoning. With this, she’s crafted a play that’s far more farce than mystery, even putting Holmes in a dress in a scene. The show’s current production at Park Square Theatre entertains more on the merits of its game cast and solid production than the rather pedestrian turns of the script.

The Jersey Lily is Lillie Langtry, the famed 19th-century beauty who inspired everything from a Who song to, ­ more important here, ­ the character of Irene Adler from “A Scandal in Bohemia.” Forgette moves Lillie into the Adler role here, including the long-ago royal affair and a secret hiding place in plain sight in her home.

Added to this are Oscar Wilde, who lightens the tone immensely; and Holmes’ arch-nemesis Professor Moriarty, who sits behind all of the machinations.

The key problem is that while the play gives us all these great characters, they then spend long stretches on the sideline. There’s a deadly stretch at the top of act two that features none of the main characters, ­ just the villains putting their rather uninteresting plans into effect. If you are going to put Sherlock Holmes and Oscar Wilde together in a story it’s probably a good idea to keep them front and center.

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My disappointment may be fueled as much by 2008’s “The Final Adventure,” which used a number of the same elements and featured several of the same actors, and managed to be a lot more fun.

Which isn’t to say there isn’t fun here. The leads dig into their roles with gusto, from Steve Hendrickson’s always-in-control Holmes to Craig Johnson’s effete Wilde to Virginia Burke’s rock-solid Lillie. While not given much to do besides being evil and scheming, Jim Cada again does a fine job with the bad professor, making him as much of a foil to Holmes as the script will allow.

“Sherlock Holmes and the Jersey Lily” runs through July 3 at Park Square Theatre, 20 W. Seventh Place, St. Paul. Tickets are $15-$60. For information and tickets, call 651-291-7005 or visit online.